Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 14 Dec 2020
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about a penalty charge notice issued by Transport for London. This is because it would have been reasonable for him to appeal.
- The complainant, Mr X, complains about a penalty charge notice (PCN) issued by Transport for London (TfL) for entering the ultra low emission zone (ULEZ) without the charge. TfL instructed enforcement agents to recover payment from Mr X and Mr X has now paid them £558.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
- The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone can appeal to a tribunal. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to expect the person to appeal. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(a), as amended)
- London Tribunals (previously known as the Parking and Traffic Appeals Service) considers parking and moving traffic offence appeals for London.
- The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone could take the matter to court. We may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to expect the person to go to court but cannot investigate if the person has already been to court. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(c), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I reviewed Mr X’s complaint and TfL’s response. I shared my draft decision with Mr X and invited his comments.
What I found
- Mr X drove into the ULEZ in 2019. The following morning, he went to TfL’s website and paid the charge.
- TfL issued Mr X a PCN for non-payment of the ULEZ charge. Mr X did not pay the PCN so TfL progressed the case and registered the unpaid PCN as a debt with the Traffic Enforcement Centre (TEC) at Northampton County Court. It then instructed enforcement agents (bailiffs) to recover payment. TfL’s bailiffs visited Mr X at home and immobilised his car and Mr X had to pay them £558 to release it.
- When Mr X complained TfL explained he had not paid the charge for the correct date; it checked its records and confirmed Mr X had paid the charge for the following day. It explained it was Mr X’s responsibility to ensure his payment was for the correct date and that it would not refund his payment.
- If Mr X disputed the PCN it would have been reasonable for him to appeal. Mr X does not accept that he paid for the wrong date and he could have put this argument to London Tribunals as part of his appeal.
- In the event Mr X did not receive the PCN, and could not therefore appeal, it would be reasonable for him to apply to the TEC to make a statutory declaration. If the TEC accepts his application it may take the process back to an earlier stage, removing the basis for TfL’s additional charges and reinstating his right of appeal. He can then challenge the PCN under the process set out above.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because it would have been reasonable for Mr X to appeal.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman